Posted On: 01/07/2000
Scorpio Lounge is located on Taylor just north of Olive on the west end of the old Gaslight Square which is the north/northeast edge of what is now called the Central West End.
Quick history of the area- Gaslight Square was a compact thriving entertainment district that was far more notorious than Bourbon Street at the time. Original music was everywhere and the streets were lined with packed clubs and restaurants. Many entertainers got their start here, such as Ike and Tina Turner, Barbara Streisand, and The Smothers Brothers. The area boasted live poetry, Irish dancing, great food, cheesy strip clubs, prostitutes, and streetcars. It would take a half hour to go two blocks in your car. Gaslight Square was a truly unique, hot area. It died down by the early '70s, giving way to fear of crime and prostitution. Sad.
Ernestine, the owner of Ernest Scorpio Lounge, is an older black woman who sometimes hangs out at the hip Venice Cafe and occasionally sings if she is prodded. She is very friendly and has a maternal quality about her. I went there for the second time a couple months ago. There are only four lightbulbs that illuminate the entire place. It isn't exactly on the clean side, although the lighting was so bad I couldn't see the dirt.
I would suggest sticking to the canned beer, of which they carry Stag which is kept in low stock in a rather small picnic style cooler. The bar is set up in a simple shotgun style with some plush booths that have seen better days.
The Lounge doesn't exactly get a lot of business. Ernestine has owned the place since before the heyday of Gaslight Square. Ernest said that she would ring over two grand a day easy during the old days. To put this in perspective, they charged 35 cents for a draft while most bars in a hip area charge at least 2.75 for a draft longneck.
The first time I went, she was playing some very very cool old Chuck-Berry-style rock and roll that was recorded off a record on a worn out tape deck. The place had a very musty smell and you could see the layers of decorations that had been placed on the wall over the years. There were old balloons hidden among the decorations on the bar that were all deflated from celebrations that have long passed. You can tell that the bar was rather hip at one time by the cool upholstering on the sides of the bar.
The last time I went she spoke of how she was all scared of catching this whole love bug virus that is spread by computers. She had also heard that you should not open up any unsolicited mail packages or you would get this insidious virus. She thought it was an actual virus. Actually, she thought the Government was making everything up. But she thought it was a real virus. Honestly. We had a good laugh after I attempted to tell her what a computer virus was. I still don't think she understood.
The bar had one doorman who was mostly asleep the full time we were there, which was kind of odd considering the place only had the two of them when we walked in. Later, a gentlemen named Slow, or at least pronounced that way, came in. He was funny as we discussed city politics and he kidded with Ernestine. He bought us a round of drinks as we talked about political crooks in our city. He and Ernestine would flirt and joke all while we roared on about a conversation about the city and the old days of Gaslight Square.
I would suggest going before this place is no longer: It is a glimpse back to a great time for the city of Saint Louis.
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